The Japanese House – Chewing Cotton Wool Review

Label: Dirty Hit

Release Date: 13th August 2020

Rating: 9/10

“It’s short but sweet, leaving us with the slightly bitter taste of queer yearning, love, and loss.”

The Japanese House via Spotify.

The Japanese House, also known as Amber Bain, is the modern champion of queer synth-pop. The puzzle of the Chewing Cotton Wool EP has been in formation since the release of ‘Something Has To Change’ in 2019, with new songs ‘Dionne’ ft. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and ‘Sharing Beds’ completing the mix.

‘Sharing Beds’ follows the typical musical structures of any given Japanese House song, with the archetypal overuse of autotune fashioned and championed by many artists at Dirty Hit. The softness of the piano sequence pairs well with the tender sentiments expressed on this body of work. Gorgeous.

I was surprised by how vulnerable this first track is: Bain makes no pretences, wearing her heart on her sleeve, laying everything bare for the alternative music world to wrap its ears around. And I have no doubt that the entirety of this world is listening, and watching, no doubt with eyes watering and hearts open.

‘Dionne’ is exactly what you would expect from the sonic lovechild of Bain and Vernon. The vocal abilities of these artists, arguably not too different in style from one another, intertwine perfectly. The track addresses yearning: “And I know it's not very sexy when somebody loves you this much and knows you this well / But it's the way it is.” I enjoy the brutal, witty honesty of this particular lyric: acknowledging that love does crazy, sometimes unattractive, things to the best of us isn’t a theme commonly acknowledged in love songs.

In a statement shared on Twitter, Bain, citing the EP’s artwork, addresses her relationship with her body:

As a lyric, “She’s the dust upon the shelf / She’s everywhere”, from closing track ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’, kind of broke me. In fact, the entire body of lyrics broke me: “She's the sound of your own voice / She's someone else's drink / She's like living in the countryside / She's the whirlpool in the sink.” Ouch. The track could equally be reflecting on a newfound love or yearning for a lost one. In this regard, Bain leaves us guessing.

‘Lilo’ is overwhelmingly my favourite song from Amber Bain and has remained so since 2018, but ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’ certainly presents competition. I’m still healing from the afternoon the music video, featuring Marika Hackman, Amber Bain’s ex-girlfriend, was released, so this is a grand statement. Setting a car alight and having a lilo sink to symbolise the end of a relationship was it. Queer women really have a knack for drama.

Chewing Cotton Wool is a natural progression from Good At Falling (2019), but the ante has certainly been upped slightly on the emotion front. It’s short but sweet, leaving us with the slightly bitter taste of queer yearning, love, and loss.

Words by Eleanor Noyce.

14th August 2020.

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